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[ The PC Guide | The PC Buyer's Guide ]

Designing and Specifying PC Systems and Components

Determining your requirements is an essential first step in purchasing a new PC. Having done this, you should have a pretty good idea what it is you are looking for in a new system, what your priorities are, and roughly how much money you are willing to spend to get your system. You now have laid the foundation that will allow you to design and specify a system that meets your needs and wants.

A good question to keep in mind when determining your system's characteristics is this one: "What exactly is a PC?" It's one of those simple questions that doesn't have a simple answer--not even close. Without having a good idea of how a PC is designed, you can't have a proper understanding of how best to select one that includes the components and features you require.

This chapter is long, but it covers a great deal of important ground in answering this important question. Most PC buyers enter the purchasing process without really understanding the fundamentals of how PCs are designed and how their various subsystems work together. Reading this material will help you to comprehend much better not just what the various parts are in a PC, but how they are configured, how they interact, and how they affect the essential characteristics that you look for in a machine.

In this chapter, I first discuss the different PC types that exist on the market. I then talk about both performance-related and non-performance issues relevant to PC design. I then discuss the various subsystems that comprise the total PC subsystem. After this, I move to a general discussion of specifying components, followed by descriptions of how to specify individual component types. Finally, I discuss briefly notebook PC specification, and conclude with a look at software issues in PC specification.

Note: If you don't really have the time (or inclination) to learn all about how PC subsystems and components work, and just want to know the key issues in selecting the core components of a pre-assembled PC, you can skip much of this chapter and refer to System-Based Key Component Selection. You're definitely missing lots of important information doing this, but if you're in a hurry it's a lot better than nothing!

Next: PC Types

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